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Killing over clogged toilet: Md. man convicted of manslaughter

toilet AP

(CBS) Wash., D.C. - After eight hours of deliberation, a jury convicted a Germantown, Md. man Monday of voluntary manslaughter in the death of his housemate, who he fatally stabbed during a fight over a clogged toilet.

The Washington Post reports 27-year-old James Biddinger was convicted of killing 22-year-old Kevin Mbayo last May during a fight in a Montgomery County townhouse.

The confrontation on the night of May 3, 2011 began around 11 p.m. when Biddinger's friend told him there was no more toilet paper in his bathroom. Biddinger went to go look for more, but was met by the sight of a clogged toilet. He grew upset -- supposedly the tension between him and his housemate Mbayo had been growing.

Biddinger, carrying a folding-style stiletto, confronted Mbayo, and soon after the altercation, police started receiving 911 calls.  Within minutes, Biddinger had left the townhouse and spoke to a 911 operator as well.

"I just got attacked by my roommate," he said. "I actually approached him for not cleaning his crap out of the toilet and he attacked me. . . . He tried to pull a kitchen knife on me and he got my finger. I ended up getting it away."

Hours later, Biddinger underwent questioning by two veteran detectives at the police station. Mbayo had died hours earlier in a hospital from a stab wound that went into his lung, something Biddinger did not know  at the time.

Detective Greg Jordan eventually asked Biddinger how it was that Mbayo came to be stabbed.

"When we were rolling around, bear-hugging, if I still had that knife in my hand or whatever it was, then he might have got stuck with it. I mean I know that. I'm not trying to claim that I had nothing to do with his injury," Biddinger said. "Because it's pretty apparent. But was there any intention of me inflicting that kind of pain on him? No."

In her closing argument, Assistant State's Attorney Carol Crawford said Biddinger cut himself with a different knife and planted it as part of a cover-up. "He did not act in self-defense," Crawford said.

But Assistant Public Defender Melanie Creedon emphasized how police found Mbayo's DNA on the handle of Biddinger's knife, suggesting the victim had control of the knife at some point. And she said that although the bathroom issue may have led to a confrontation, it hardly turned her client into a crazed killer.

"Ladies and gentlemen, it is ludicrous to suggest that the catalyst -- this clogged toilet -- was such that Mr. Biddinger was so enraged that he came running down and plunged a knife into Mr. Mbayo's back," Creedon said.

Jurors said there was a lack of physical evidence pointing to premeditated murder. Biddinger did not take the witness stand, but jurors reviewed a video recording of him telling detectives he never intended to hurt Mbayo.

"How in the world did it ever come to this?," said Juror No. 48, who asked to not be named.

Biddinger's voluntary manslaughter conviction carries a sentence of up to 10 years.

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